The 4 Stages of Writing a Novel

Which stage of writing a book are you in right now?

Though there’s no one right way to write a book, there is a road map you can follow so you know you’re headed in the right direction.

Read about the 4 stages below. Then tell us which one fits best for you and what your next steps are.

Knowing where you are can bring clarity. Acknowledging where you’ve been can invite compassion. Compassion for yourself during the long journey of writing a book is one of the keys to success.


Planning your novel or nonfiction book can look like day dreaming, brainstorming by yourself or with others, research, and jotting down notes.

In this phase, there is no right way to do it, but there are steps you can take to brainstorm as much of the story as your creativity and enthusiasm can bear.

In this stage, writers test out their ideas, either just with themselves or with others. Some writers share with their network about their project and start gathering followers or subscribers.

Working writers: If you already have books published, you’ll need to find ways to promote those books, while planning the next one. You can bring creativity and joy to marketing too. More on that below.

Many writers are stuck with their story because they haven’t gotten to know their characters, or don’t know their conflict, or sometimes because they don’t understand story structure. They also get stuck because they don’t know what their options are.


In the writing stage, you write your story, in whatever order you like. Some writers write their story in linear order. Some write it out of order, and still some start in the middle and write the second half first, then move to the first half.

Some writers share snippets of their work in progress with their trusted circle or even their fans. Some writers keep this stage private until the entire book is written.

You can share the experience of writing a first draft without sharing any content. I’ve seen writers share images of their writing space, fun facts they encounter in their research, and images associated with their setting or world.

Many writers get stuck in the writing phase because they judge their work and themselves too soon. Or because they don’t know their characters, conflicts, or story well-enough. These story development problems can often be solved by going back to the planning and brainstorming phase.


In the editing/revising phase, writers make changes to the story, characters, conflict, setting, language. and more.

This is also the stage to fix grammar, spelling, and word usage.

It’s quite common for writers to do multiple passes on their manuscripts and to have critiques from professional editors or trusted writers on all aspects of their story, including story development, character, word choice, and market viability.

This stage also includes getting feedback from early readers who are interested in your work.

Lots of writers get stuck at this stage because it feels so daunting. They don’t know where to begin and have no clear road map. Other writers get stuck because their self-esteem is deeply embedded in how they feel about their story. That’s common and understandable.


At the publishing stage, your book is released into the world for the readers and takes on a life of its own. You can self-publish or publish with a traditional publisher.

Marketing at this stage usually consists of some kind of launch event on this book.

Writers often get stuck at this stage because they don’t know which kind of publishing is right for them (traditional, indie, or hybrid), they don’t know the steps to their preferred path, or they’re not sure their work is ready for the public eye.


Book and author marketing can happen at all four stages.

Most people think marketing and promotions are just about selling books, but actually marketing and promotions are about growing your reach as an author.

At every stage, you can be and “should be” promoting your author name, even if you don’t have a book out yet, or soon.

I say “should be” in quotes because I’m not a fan of “shoulds,” but I do think marketing is essential if you want to have a career as a writer.

You can learn to be okay with sharing your stories and your author persona, if you want to sell books.

You can progressively get comfortable with and master the skills you need for marketing and promotions through the planning, writing, editing, and publishing process.

Which Stage Are You In?

In the form below, share with us which stage best fits you and what your next steps are.

Here are some resources we offer for each stage:

What about learning about marketing?

Start here with our Branding for Novelists course.

We also cover branding, marketing, book launches and more in our Group Program for Genre Novelists.


Comment in the form below and request to schedule a complimentary session with Creativity Coach for Novelists, Beth Barany.